A Hyde Park neighborhood staple is taking a break to retool. Vino Vino, the wine bar and restaurant that Kelly Bell and Jeff Courington opened in 2006, announced on its website that the space is shuttered for the month of July. The Hyde Park favorite was a Top 25 selection in the Austin360 Dining Guide in 2016 and a Critic's Pick in 2015.
“Vino Vino will be closed for the month of July to retrain staff and revamp the menu,” the statement reads. “The new Vino Vino will be what earned us the support of Hyde Park and the Austin community for 13 years as casual and approachable wine bar with friendly service and a warm atmosphere. Thank you for your support over the years and your patience in this transition.”
Bell tells the Statesman that the closure, which he expects to last until the middle of August, was not planned. He also asserts that the restaurant is on "on sound financial footing," though he intends to either find a new partner or a buyer who can "keep Vino Vino going for another 13 years."
“I was in the process of making changes to the chef and GM positions, then, without my knowledge, they informed the staff that VV was closing and went about obtaining alternate employment positions for them,” Bell said of the rift first reported by Eater Austin. “Therefore, I had no choice but to let both of them go. My hope was that we would not be closed for one day. I hated to lose the staff---they are a talented, hard-working group. But the current direction was not working, and the chef and GM refused to make changes. I saw that VV needed to get back to being the Vino Vino we all knew and loved and that is still my goal.
Executive chef Ben Schwartz opted to take the high road on the matter by going into a detailed account of the changes, simply telling the Statesman that he and general manager Doug West were let go and the rest of the staff followed suit. Schwartz, who is currently consulting with a downtown restaurant, says he is looking for a space and investors for an exciting new concept.
The Vino Vino temporary closure comes on the heels of a couple years of transitions at the warm and inviting restaurant and wine bar. Courington sold his interest to Bell in 2016 and Bell later brought on chef Adam Brick (formerly of Apis) and wine director Paul Ozbirn as partners to help revamp the restaurant. Brick and Vino Vino parted ways in 2017 and Ozbirn left the following summer.
Bell then brought on Uchiko and Texas French Bread veteran Schwartz to streamline the menu last year for another revamp.
Austin360 Dining Guide: The Top 50 Restaurants in Austin